I actually think that the ruling elite of men in white do favour a subserviant and unthinking press...
Saying something then doing and condoning the opposite tends to give the game away.
Tue Nov 1, 2005 4:46 AM GMT
SINGAPORE (Reuters) - Singapore should not be embarrassed by its lowly ranking on the international press freedom index because it has achieved top ratings for economic freedom and prosperity, its senior minister said.
Defending the city-state's model of press control, former prime minister Goh Chok Tong said the country should not subscribe to the Western model of a free press that favours criticism and opposition.
Instead, Singapore should develop a non-adversarial press that reported accurately and objectively.
"I do not favour a subservient press. An unthinking press is not good for Singapore. But press freedom must be practised with a larger sense of responsibility and the ability to understand what is in, or not in, our national interests," Goh said late on Monday, at the anniversary dinner of the Today newspaper.
Goh's comments come a week after an annual index produced by Reporters Sans Frontieres, a Paris-based media monitoring group, ranked Singapore 140th out of 167 countries -- up four notches from last year but still faring worse than tightly governed states such as Russia and Yemen.
In a report accompanying the publication of the latest index, Reporters San Frontieres (RSF) said Singapore's low ranking was due to the complete absence of independent media, the application of prison sentences for press offences, media self-censorship and the opposition's lack of access to state media.
The report also cited instances where the government used heavy fines or distribution bans on international newspapers such as the Asian Wall Street Journal, the Economist and the International Herald Tribune to "silence Singaporeans or foreign journalists" who wrote articles that embarrassed the political elite.
Goh said the RSF report was a "subjective measure computed through the prism of Western liberals".
He cited other surveys such as the Transparency International Index and the US-Based Heritage Foundation's Economic Freedom Index, in which Singapore received top ratings.
"My simple point is this: it has not been proven that having more press freedom would result in a clean and efficient government or economic freedom and prosperity," Goh said.
Singapore is known for heavy-handed censorship in the media and arts, largely enforced through a system of issuing publication and performance licences.
Run by the People's Action Party for 40 years, Singapore often gets top marks for its sound economic policies but lags other Asian countries when it comes to freedom of expression.
Last month, outgoing U.S. ambassador Franklin L. Lavin slammed the city-state's curbs on freedom of speech. In the same month, Warwick University dropped plans to set up a campus in Singapore because of concerns about academic freedom.